A half century ago this August 4, a heavyweight collision took place that is still something of a talking point with regards to whether or not the referee jumped the gun in halting the fight too soon or not. It was the George Vs. George fight – an X-rated, not for the squeamish knockabout between Foreman and Chuvalo.
Foreman’s strengths: Sheer physical strength. Raw power. Hunger and desire.
Foreman’s weaknesses: Inexperience. Rawness and tendency to throw wild, clumsy punches. Suspect stamina.
Chuvalo’s strenghts: Incredible chin. Vast experience. Heart and guts.
Chuvalo’s weaknesses: Easy to hit. Past his best and now at “gate keeper” level. Age, at 32, some 11 years older than Foreman.
Foreman, 21-0(18) Vs. Chuvalo, 59-15-2(51).
So what happened when the two greats ran smack, bang into each other? The opening round saw a fast pace set, with the bigger Foreman pumping out his at times ungainly yet almost always effective left jab, followed by some stiff right hands. Chuvalo dug in some quite brutal body work, his left hand his most effective weapon. It was a lively opening session.
By the 2nd, Chuvalo’s left eye was swelling fast. Foreman missed quite a few shots, his wild-swinging approach showing he was by far the finished article (the young Foremn would in fact never become a polished fighter) and leaving him terribly off-balance. Chuvalo, though, was for the most part being pushed and shoved, not to mention punched, around the ring.
Foreman cracked Chuvalo with a monster left hand to the head in the early going of the third-round and the legs of the older George dipped. Foreman, not looking at letting his man off the hook or in pacing himself, went down to the body himself, his rights slamming into Chuvalo’s ribs. Foreman then moved Chuavlo into another corner, where he proceeded to continue banging away. The unimaginably tough Chuvalo was doing his level best to block punches, make Foreman miss and even fire back, yet manager Irv Ungerman had seen enough and seconds later so had referee Arthur Mercante.
“What the f*** are you doing!” bellowed a battered but still upright and with it Chuvalo when Mercante ended matters. To the recent day (before the beloved Canadian icon began suffering from serious cognitive problems) Chuvalo has insisted to each and all that the fight was stopped too soon. Chuvalo insisted how almost all of Foreman’s punches failed to detonate on their desired target and that “Big George” was getting tired and was breathing heavily.
“I honestly think I had him, that I would have knocked him out in the later rounds,” Chuvalo told Ring Magazine in a 2014 feature.
But would he have done so?
Sure, plenty of Foreman’s shots were way off the mark, and we all know the young Foreman had nothing approaching an endless spring in terms of stamina. But Chuvalo was trapped in a corner, Foreman was teeing off on him and, crucially, Chuvalo was not throwing enough back – just three shots launched after being hurt by the initial left hand bomb.
Looking back at the fight that wasn’t really that much of a big, big deal at the time – fans not knowing they were watching two of the most amazing heavyweights of the 20th century being matched together – it seems a very tough warrior with a reputation for being, as Ring Mag put it, “bulletproof,” was saved from himself; first by Ungerman and then by Mercante.
Still, to this day, if you catch him at the right time, Chuvalo will argue with you and convince you that he “had Foreman,” that it was a premature job on the part of Mercante (who may or may not have heard or seen Ungerman during those crucial seconds).
What we can all agree on is this: George Chuvalo, who never went down in ANY fight, had the most astonishing heavyweight chin you could point a finger at. I’m sure George Foreman, no slouch himself at being able to take a hit (in his “second coming” especially) would agree.